Well, the Commonwealth Court heard arguments this week on the ACLU’s challenge to the PA Voter ID law. It’s worth reading some of the details about the plaintiffs: http://www.delcodems.com/content/aclu-files-lawsuit-commonwealth-court-overturn-voter-id particularly about the elderly voters born in rural areas of other states who don’t have birth certificates.
Now remember, we’re not talking about registering new voters. This suit (and the whole issue itself) is all about people who are already legally registered to vote in PA, many of whom HAVE BEEN VOTING LEGALLY FOR YEARS. These people are now being told that in order to continue to exercise their Constitutional right to vote, they have to jump through a few nice big hoops because they don’t drive (and thus have a driver’s license) or have a passport or work for the state. So who doesn’t drive or have a passport or work for the state? The elderly, the poor and the unemployed, that’s who—and what good Republican wants them to decide what goes on in Washington and Harrisburg? Think it’s not about voter suppression? State House leader Mike Turzai was videotaped saying that “The Voter ID Bill will give Pennsylvania to Mitt Romney.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuOT1bRYdK8
Now those among us who don’t think the government should be shrunk until it can be drowned in a bathtub and do believe there’s a role for government regulation still want to see a reason for regulation. Like when Wall Street’s machinations crash the economy, say. Or 40,000 people under age 65 die each year because they don’t have health insurance. Got a problem? Maybe we should fix it. Maybe some regulations would help. So what’s the problem for which voter ID is the fix? Well the only problem it fixes is voter impersonation. Guess how many cases of voter impersonation the PA Republican administration claims to have found? That would be none. Zero. That’s what they put in their written response to the lawsuit. So the party that claims to exist solely to rid us of government interference has passed a burdensome, onerous law that may disenfranchise hundreds of thousands and inconvenience up to one million to solve NOTHING. Oh, wait. It’s not burdensome or onerous to the well to do, so I guess it doesn’t count (I’ve seen tons of online comments to the effect “everybody’s got an ID, what’s the big deal”).
Here are the current requirements for obtaining a PA Photo ID card: http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/voter/voteridlaw.shtml Now interestingly, in response to the lawsuit the Republican administration is backpedaling on the requirements. On July 20, Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele announced creation of a “new card” that will fulfill the requirements of the law.
“The new voter photo identification cards are scheduled to be available at PennDOT’s Driver’s License Centers beginning the last week of August. The identification cards can be issued to registered voters who may not have all of the documents necessary to obtain a non-driver’s license photo ID from PennDOT, primarily a birth certificate.
The IDs, which are free, will be issued to voters for a 10-year period and can only be used for voting purposes. For Pennsylvania-born voters, PennDOT will still use the process of confirming birth records electronically with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to issue non-driver’s license photo IDs for voting.
When requesting these IDs, voters will need to affirm they do not possess any other approved identification for voting purposes. They will be asked to provide two proofs of residence, such as a utility bill, along with their date of birth and Social Security number, if the customer has an assigned number. PennDOT will validate the voter registration status with the Department of State while the voter is in the PennDOT office. Upon confirmation of this information, the voter will be issued the voter card before leaving the PennDOT facility.”
I’m not clear as to whether people need to bring the SS card or just provide the number. Either way, this is a clear improvement over the previous requirements. It still means that people who don’t drive, and who may have limited mobility need to take part of a day to get the right to exercise a right they may have done for years. It’s still a barrier, and an unnecessary one.